Having perfectly shaped and straight toenails is something many of us aspire to. However, it’s not uncommon to deal with crooked, ingrown or oddly curved toenails. Curved toenails can cause pain, discomfort, and even infections if left untreated. Thankfully, there are many tactics you can try at home to fix and prevent crooked toenail growth. With some diligence and proper foot care, you can get your toenails to grow straight naturally.
What Causes Crooked Toenail Growth
Before learning how to fix curved toenails, it’s important to understand what causes them in the first place. This allows you to identify and address the root cause for the best results. Here are some of the most common reasons for crooked toenail growth:
- Genetics: Some people are simply prone to ingrown or curved nails due to hereditary factors. You may be at higher risk for nail infections as well.
- Incorrect trimming: Cutting your nails too short or rounding the edges can encourage the nails to grow into the skin. This puts pressure on the nail bed.
- Trauma: Injuries from stubbing your toes, dropping something on them, or repeated pressure can affect growth. The damage causes nails to grow inward.
- Tight shoes: Shoes that are too narrow or short can force your toenails to curve inward from the pressure. This is especially true for the big toe.
- Poor hygiene: Keeping your nails too wet or dry can soften them and make them more prone to bending and curving.
- Onychogryphosis: Thickened, claw-like nails that curve inward or upward on the big toe. It’s often caused by injury or infection.
How Should Toenails Normally Grow?
Healthy toenails should grow relatively straight out from the nail bed. The nails protect the sensitive toe tips. Most issues arise when one or both sides of the nail grow faster or slower than the other. This imbalance creates pressure that forces the nail to curve or dig into the skin. Ingrown toenails and nails that grow vertically into the nail bed are examples of abnormal, problematic growth.
Fixing Already Crooked Toenails
If you’re already dealing with crooked, ingrown or curved toenails, don’t worry – in many cases, it is possible to correct their growth. Here are some tips:
- Evaluate your footwear and opt for wider, more comfortable shoes to eliminate pressure on your toes.
- Do toe exercises to stretch them out, such as gently pulling them back or spreading them.
- Identify and address the root cause, whether it’s poor trimming, tight shoes, or trauma. This will prevent continual re-curving.
- Use dental floss, cotton, or an ingrown nail corrector tool to help pull the nail edge out of the skin.
- See a podiatrist for professional treatment of painful or severe cases. They can surgically remove part of the nail.
It’s crucial to determine the underlying reason for the bending before attempting to fix it. Otherwise, you may just be temporarily treating the symptom rather than the problem itself.
How to Make Toenails Grow Straight
Once you’ve addressed any existing crooked nail issues, it’s time to encourage new nail growth in the proper direction. Here are some techniques:
Trimming your nails straight across is vital for preventing future curving or ingrowth. The easiest way is to:
- Soak your feet in warm water to soften nails. Trim after a shower when they’re soft.
- Cut your toenails straight across to establish a 90-degree edge.
- Never round off the corners or trim too short into corners. Leave a small amount of white nail.
- Use sharp clippers and a single snip for clean cuts. Don’t tear or rip nails.
After clipping, using a nail file to gently smooth any rough edges is key. Try these tips:
- Opt for a high-quality glass file, not a metal one. Glass files prevent splitting.
- File in one direction, starting from the outside corner edges to the center.
- Don’t file too aggressively. Make light strokes filing toward the center until smooth.
- File nails after showering when softened by water. Filing dry, brittle nails can cause splits and cracks.
Wear Properly Fitted Shoes
Avoiding shoes that are too tight, narrow or short is crucial for growing straight toenails. Follow these guidelines:
- Measure your feet late in the day when slightly swollen to determine proper shoe size.
- Shop for shoes in the afternoon or evening when your feet are larger after use.
- Try shoes on with the same socks you’ll wear with them. Test different sizes for the best fit.
- Ensure shoes aren’t pinching at the toes or rubbing anywhere. You should have ample wiggle room.
- Look for shoes with round or square toe boxes rather than pointed styles that squeeze toes.
Practice Proper Hygiene
Keeping your feet clean, dry and moisturized creates an optimal environment for healthy nail growth. Here are some foot hygiene tips:
- Wash feet daily with antimicrobial soap, rinsing well and drying thoroughly.
- Apply foot powder to avoid dampness from sweat. Change socks regularly.
- Use a pumice stone to gently buff away calluses and thick skin.
- Apply moisturizing lotion clean nails and cuticles to condition them.
- Disinfect pedicure tools and avoid cutting cuticles to lower infection risk.
Eat a Healthy Diet
What you eat affects the health of your toenails, as nutrients impact growth and strength. Focus on getting:
- Protein to aid keratin production for hard nails.
- Zinc, iron and calcium to reduce brittle, weak nails.
- Biotin to stimulate faster nail cell growth.
- Vitamin C to form collagen that fortifies nails.
- Omega-3s to reduce inflammation causing distorted growth.
- Gelatin to form strong nails.
- Stay hydrated to keep nails flexible.
Use Orthotic Inserts
Special orthotic inserts for your shoes can help realign toes and prevent ingrown nails. Consider trying:
- Toe spacers to keep toes properly separated.
- Toe straighteners or splints to gently guide nail growth.
- Metatarsal pads under the ball of the foot to relieve pressure.
- Custom orthotics designed by a podiatrist for your needs.
Seek Medical Treatment
For painful, inflamed or infected nails, seeking professional medical treatment is recommended. Doctors can provide specialized nail care including:
- Prescribing oral antibiotics or antibiotic ointments.
- Partially removing the nail or surgically repositioning the nail bed.
- Applying chemicals to the nail bed to prevent regrowth.
- Providing medical grade orthotics.
Doctors can also diagnose any underlying conditions causing crooked nails, like arthritis or fungal infections.
Why Straight Toenails Are Important
Aside from appearance, having properly aligned toenails is vital for:
- Overall foot health: Straight toenails optimize foot function and health. Well-pedicured feet are less prone to issues.
- Preventing problems: Crooked nails can lead to ingrown nails, infections, and even walking difficulties if left untreated. Keeping nails straight helps avoid this.
- Maintaining hygiene: With straight toenails, you can keep the nails and feet cleaner. Curved nails trap dirt and debris.
- Confidence: Smooth toenails you aren’t ashamed to show boost confidence. You can comfortably wear open-toed shoes.
Don’t underestimate the importance of toenail maintenance! Keeping your nails aligned benefits your whole body.
Preventing Crooked Toenails in the First Place
Once you’ve succeeded in straightening out your toenails, consistent care is key for preventing future curving. Try these proactive tips:
- Wear properly fitted shoes: Ill-fitting shoes are a prime cause of crooked nails. Get professionally measured and buy shoes with wiggle room.
- Trim toenails regularly: Letting nails get too long or unevenly long allows pressure imbalances. Keep them trimmed straight across.
- Practice good hygiene: Soak nails in warm water and use antimicrobial soap. Keep feet clean and dry.
- Avoid tight socks and hosiery: Tight toes can gradually force nails to bend. Opt for well-fitting socks.
- Use moisturizer: Keep nails flexible and conditioned to resist bending with lotions.
- See a podiatrist: Have any recurring issues evaluated. Custom orthotics may help.
Alternative Solutions for Severely Curved Nails
For extremely stubborn or curved nail beds, you may need to consider alternative solutions beyond basic nail care:
- Artificial nails: Fake gel or acrylic nail overlays can help gradually encourage the nail bed to grow straighter beneath.
- Surgical procedures: A podiatrist can surgically remove part of the nail bed or use reconstruction techniques to allow straighter regrowth.
- Prescription medication: Drugs like oral terbinafine tackle stubborn fungal infections causing disfigured nails.
These more invasive approaches may be required for abnormally shaped nail beds, nail bed injuries or congenital conditions. Consult a podiatrist.
When to See a Doctor About Crooked Toenails
While home care can fix mildly crooked nails, it’s best to make an appointment with your doctor or podiatrist if:
- You have recurrent ingrown nails that home remedies haven’t helped.
- Your nails are severely thickened, distorted or infected.
- Crooked nails are causing you pronounced pain or affecting walking.
- You have diabetes, nerve damage or poor circulation making nail care difficult.
Severe cases with chronic pain, swelling, infection or mobility issues warrant medical attention. A doctor can not only provide treatment but also determine any underlying condition.
Dealing with crooked, ingrown or curved toenails can be frustrating. But straightening your toenails is possible with diligent at-home care and the right techniques:
- Trim nails properly – Cut them straight across, never too short.
- File edges smooth – Use a glass file in one direction.
- Wear well-fitted shoes – Prevent pressure on nails.
- Practice good hygiene – Keep nails clean and moisturized.
- Consider orthotics – Relieve pressure points.
For severe cases, speak to your doctor about medical procedures or artificial nail options to get your toenails growing healthily again. With patience and persistence, straight toenails can be achieved.